Out of the box and moving…

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He is perched on perhaps one of the most happening advertising medium of the industry and yet runs shy from the media glare. MARKETING caught up with Roshan Puvan (pic), the young CEO of Hot (Head On Traffic) Media, a major Out Of Home (OOH) player in Malaysia, for a quick chat, which, though did run longer with its interesting revelations.

For, on display, was Roshan’s strong conviction about his business which remains unaltered even under the talk of high-stakes digital distraction. He is upbeat rather; and he has reasons to. Roshan is using technology and innovation to stay ahead in the game of outdoor campaigns, riding on the two strong and unique mediums of toll-plazas and gantries, where other media owners have no presence.
In Malaysia, HOT Media Sdn Bhd has a dominant hold on the motorways, with a reach over 4 million motorists daily. With such a traditional footprint, a legacy so unique coupled with impressive growth, Hot Media is standing tall, unwavering. We asked Roshan our first question…
How do you describe yourself at this juncture of the industry? With digital screen owners in Malaysia transforming the outdoors, where do you see Hot Media?
Basically, Hot media is unique, because we are the only ones who have what we have; no other media owners have our assets – toll plazas, gantries. This, in turn, means that we don’t have much competition with other media owners in that sense. Also, having been around for several years, we have slowly captured the market; and our clientele covers a wide spectrum; schools, multinationals, banks, developers, basically the whole gamut.

With that, we have grown from strength to strength over the years and I hope I continue to do so, going forward. The marketing communications industry is digitizing at a pace unprecedented, and drawing in consumers at a massive scale.
Do you believe Hot Media will stay relevant amidst this?
Yes, we are still relevant, and we will continue to be the highlight. We are keeping up with the changing times. We have innovated our boxes in a way where technology aids the clients’ needs. At Hot Media, there is an emphasis on state-of-the-art material, like for instance, protrusion kind of lighting where the light protrudes from the box, and shoots straight to the audience eyes. This lends an interactive element to the boxes, engaging the users who go by.
Another thing we offer is 3D concepts; and not just this, various concepts can be innovated into the Box, unlike LED mediums which is limited. LED works like a screen which keeps displaying different messages at different times. So, in effect, one LED Box typically has 10-15 clients. Whereas, in our medium, one customer hires our Box and remains dominant there, giving a longevity to its brand. We do not have a mechanism to inter-change and so it allows only one customer at a time.
Like for instance, various developers would prefer to rather have their visual there, than to have other well-known brands. Our innovation in Boxes allows that singular presence. Hot Media gives the highest visibility to its clients, and there is no third party coming in. Over the last few years we have had repeat customers like MBSB; we give them various choices, like sticker or film format and also different sort of variations of light. This keeps our customers engaged with Hot Media.
When did you begin all this?
Basically, we were only limited to three mediums earlier; namely, Pillar, Boom Arm, and Light box. We are still selling them but now for the past one and half years we have been innovating and doing something out of the box, literally. Now we are making the box slimmer and the stand is also more appealing because of the new sleek design.
Can you throw light on the new and different materials you have been innovating with?
The significant change we have introduced is the sticker material, which is quite thick and once it is stuck on acrylic, it makes for a very stable product. When the light shines on such products, it appears as if it is real. Both our Pepsi and Mountain Dew campaigns brought out this realness thanks to our innovation. Other clients too have participated in this innovation. We have used various other ways to place their visuals; like the unique placement of awards where the trophies seem to be coming to you.

Do you run brand awareness studies after such campaigns are launched through Hot Media?
The clients do this on their own. It must be effective for them to come back to us again and again. I can however reveal that clients are willing to pay more due to innovation. They now want to invest to be dominant in any given geographical area, with no other client present, which our Boxes are currently doing.
Interestingly, some of the clients have continued to be in the same spot at tolls for 5 years at a stretch. They will not yield this space; for once they do, others will jump in. These are high-ticket spots on the Expressways for brands. Even our Gantries (ad boards on the other side of the highways) are very popular. These are very effective and one never misses them while driving.
What kind of feedback do clients give?
We do a lot of work with educational institutions. For example, MAHSA College gives us views and clues during the intakes; about how the admissions went up driven by a well-highlighted campaign with our boards. Brickfields College has increased its boards over the years, based on the awareness we have ben creating for them. We also have KPJ, KDU changing their visuals during intakes, making it relevant to the needs of their programmes. They have their own measurement metrics for finding out the success of the campaigns.
We have several schools who have taken gantries with us like MAHSA International school, Beacon International school and other pre-schools, generally we have a huge line-up of education-based customers. We don’t know for what reason, but I believe they find it very effective.
Where do you stand in terms of innovations vis a vis trends in the region? Gantries is a very traditional medium and we own this space in Malaysia. It has evolved to become one of the most sought after advertising platforms due to its heads-on nature. The USP and added incentive for advertisers using Gantry signage, is that it is always at Solus position and is devoid of clutter. We are already the most established in this category. Gantries are unique to Malaysia. Others have not caught up with us on this; not in the ASEAN region certainly.
Are you looking at expanding?
Yes, we are looking at expanding and moving into other mediums to offer clients more variety.
What about added value?
An important part of our offering is our services. Without going into details, I would be happy to point out that we get this feedback again and again. Furthermore, our motorways and spots are very strategic; we have a traffic count, and no matter what, we have a guaranteed number of audience that will watch the ads. We also give the demographics of a given area, and based on that we derive how the clients will achieve targets.
You have a strong marketing team…
We have a good force; we have lot of freelance agents. Basically, we have a team that services the direct customers and we also have freelancers who bring their own agencies. Also, we work with many renounced media specialist agencies in Malaysia. Our strength though is the large number of freelancers than full-timers.
Your edge over other players?
Our advantage is that we have long term customers; we don’t need to do hard sell; and this is because of the unique service we offer. This comprises daily reports on how their campaigns are working; whether there are any problems in lighting, or if boards have been damaged or displaced, etc. We have a mobile team that inspects all the boards and signages and this is followed by immediate feedback. For attending and correcting any issue our response time is 24 hours. This is our USP, and even if customers buy one board, we give them this same service.
Some of the challenges you see for Hot Media?
There aren’t many challenges for us in this industry; we have a robust client list and we always have work. Currently, there is a long waiting list of clients wishing to take our spots at the tolls. Another positive development is that several customers, attracted to our work, are now willing to pay more than the advertised cost to take over the space. However, we do not indulge in this practice as most of our clients have been with us for too long and they enjoy the dominant positions provided by us.
What is the guiding business philosophy of your organization?
Teamwork and being in it together to give the best service to clients is our primary work ethos. We ensure that the clients come back to us based on our service and we see them as our associates in the true sense. It is this dedication towards teaming up with our clients that won us the Business Partnership Value Award in 2017.
This article first appeared in MARKETING magazine issue 219. You can view the online version of the magazine here 

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